Gregory S. DuPont
Just Married: Newlywed Estate Planning Cheat Sheet
You’re already sharing a life, now it’s time to share some important info to get your matrimonial journey off to a great start.
Congrats on your recent nuptials! Now that you’ve said the vows and enjoyed a relaxing honeymoon, it’s time to get down to business.
Friends with Beneficiaries
The following accounts need to be updated to reflect your spouse as the new beneficiary or transfer on death designation:
- Existing Checking/Savings Account
- Life Insurance: Employer-based and stand-alone policy if you already have one
- Investments: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
- Retirement Accounts: 401(k), IRA, Roth IRA, 403(b)
- Military Benefits
- Pension: SEP / SARSEP
- Property, titles, and assets that might currently name someone else as the beneficiary (Example: You named a sibling to receive a benefit that your spouse should now be getting)
Two Hearts (And Accounts) Become One
Here are some accounts you might consider creating or consolidating now that you’re hitched:
- Open Joint Banking Account/Credit Cards: Start off by filling it with the wedding gift money...if you didn’t spend it all on the honeymoon.
- Health Insurance: Marriage qualifies as a special enrollment period so sign up as soon as you can.
- Car Insurance: Look into getting a family (a.k.a. umbrella) plan for your household; if the rates are better than what you’re currently paying for stand-alone coverage, go for it.
- Mobile Phone Plan: See “car insurance” above. If you don’t feel like moving your eyes a few inches up this page here’s the gist: If a family plan has a better rate, do it up.
- Re-Title Property Ownership Documents: This applies to homes, cars, or other titled assets (usually these pass to your spouse if something happens to you, but better safe…)
- Duplicate Accounts/Services: Do you need two Costco accounts? Two Netflix or Amazon Prime accounts? Consolidate these down so you’re not paying for the same thing twice.
Here Comes the Will
Compared to planning a wedding, getting a will in place is a piece of cake. If there will be babies in your future, or you already have kids, this is where you name the all-important guardian.
If you currently have a will, update it to account for your new better half. It’s best to meet with an estate attorney to make sure everything’s done right -- most attorneys can also safely store the official, signed copy of the will as well. As an added benefit, by hiring a professional you can take care of the next thing on this list too.
Share the Power...Of Attorney
Your Power of Attorney (POA) has power over everything involving your finances. This includes paying bills, managing bank accounts, overseeing investments, signing contracts, and filing your taxes. We recommend meeting with an estate attorney, ideally when you’re creating your Will, to make sure it’s done right.
The Sweet Life (Insurance)
You might already have Life Insurance through your job, but is it enough to support your new family if something happens to you? Probably not. Look into meeting with an insurance agent and getting a stand-alone Term or Whole Life policy.
In Sickness & In Health
The last thing you want to think about right now are the medical decisions you might have to make if you or your spouse gets sick or is the victim of an accident. However, it’s best to make these decisions when you’re happy and healthy.
Creating an Advance Directive, which is comprised of your Living Will and naming a Health Care Proxy, is simple and painless. Not creating one can be difficult and painful should the situation arise. Find your state’s Advance Directive form, fill it out, sign it, keep it somewhere your spouse can easily access it and rest easy knowing you just took a huge burden off your family’s shoulders.
Can We See Some ID?
We accumulate a lot of identification and official documentation throughout our lives. Now’s the time to get it all sorted and organized in case you need it to buy a house, get insurance, or do other adult things. Here’s a rundown:
- Marriage Certificate
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security Card (or a place where you spouse can easily find your social security number)
- Armed Forces ID / Discharge Papers
- Citizenship Documentation
- Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement
- Divorce Decree (from previous marriages)
- Documents related to any children you already have (example: adoption or legal guardianship papers)
Let’s Get Digital
Sharing passcodes and passwords to the following devices and systems is extremely helpful. It can also prevent lots of headaches if one of you can never seem to remember the Wifi password:
- Mobile Phone(s)
- Home Security System
Along these lines, there are also a bunch of digital accounts and online services you’ll be sharing with your spouse to make sure the household runs smoothly. Here’s a quick rundown of such things:
- Home Utilities: Power, cable, phone, etc.
- Health / Medical: insurance provider, prescription services
- Financial / Money Management: Auto-payments, budgeting
- Entertainment: video, music, gaming
- Food / Shopping / Delivery Services
- Cloud Storage: Photos, media
- Travel / Ticketing / Rewards: frequent flyer miles, reward points
- Password Manager: If you use a password manager, and you probably should, your master password is the most important one to share.
And They Live Happily Ever After…